Before a fall: Kushiel’s Chosen Read-along, Part 3

The drama is cranked up this week as our intrepid company arrives in La Serenissima. Phèdre finally discovers where Melisande has been hiding herself … and pays a heavy price for the knowledge.

Let’s discuss Kushiel’s Chosen.

This week’s discussion contains spoilers for chapters 31 through 44.



Phèdre, her boys, and Joscelin arrive safely in La Serenissima. What was your impression of the city, its culture, and its ruler, the Doge? What did you think of its goddess, Asherat? Do you agree with the Doge that Asherat-of-the-Sea reached out to Phèdre about the Oracle being tampered with?

I’ve always been here for a good port city set-piece, and so I’m inclined to be fascinated by La Serenissima. It’s culture is interesting mostly in its contrasts to D’Angeline culture, I think, but that alone is enough to be worth a thought or two. I was mostly here for the pretty scenery of it.

As for the Doge and his interactions with Phèdre, I didn’t remember any of the detail regarding him so it was interesting to see how sharp and wily the old man was! I immediately took a liking to him for that. I don’t recall which fate, if any, befalls him by the end of this book but I’m curious to refresh my memory there. Regarding the Oracle and the Doge’s stance on faith … that’s a fascinating point of view given the mysterious nature of the gods that we’ve seen so far in this story. I’m not entirely convinced it’s more than a coincidence, but to each their own; maybe I’m wrong and Asherat really did ask a girl to help her out a little, in her way!


What do you think of Severio’s Immortali when you first met them? Do you think it a coincidence that Phèdre is finally invited to meet with Benedicte de la Courcel after turning down Severio’s proposal? Do you think Severio will make problems for Phèdre or will he get over Phèdre turning down his marriage proposal?

Seeing Severio and his friends on their own turf, in their natural habitat as it were, was interesting. In terms of the impression they made, I’m not sure I care much for their antics; young men will do what young men with wealth, privilege and very little in the way of responsibilities tend to do. But Severio struck me as being pretty much as young as his years, and while that’s fair enough, I kind of rolled my eyes and moved on, to be honest. I don’t recall if he plays much more of a part in events than this, but I’m happy enough to leave him to his self-interested devices.

The point about Phèdre only getting her foot in Benedicte’s door after she cuts Severio loose, though, is a good one that I had not considered! Score one more for political intricacies going over my head… I hadn’t thought about that before, but I’m inclined to think it probably wasn’t a coincidence. We know now that Melisande really has been playing Phèdre like a fiddle this whole time, so it stands to reason she’d bide her time to spring her trap.


Melisande is unveiled! Were you expecting her to pop up as we received more hints about Benedicte’s mysterious wife and new-born D’Angeline son? We learn that in addition to Benedicte, Melisande has also roped Percy de Somerville (who already had plans for treason) into her plots, do you suspect anyone else of siding with Melisande?


*Deep breath* I did remember this plot twist, but that said – I apparently also forgot that we’d be finding her playing house with Benedicte de la Courcel. I remembered the priestess of Asherat bit, but I was expecting Phèdre to find her still taking sanctuary in the temple. So I’ve been waiting for this, but it still managed to surprise me!

Likewise, I completely forgot about Percy de Somerville’s involvement. And I have no idea if anyone else closer to Ysandre is in on the plot. THIS IS GETTING SO TENSE AND GOOD AAAAAH.


Joscelin is teaching the Yeshuites to fight like a Cassiline. Do you think he is the Cassiline leader prophesied to help the Yeshuites? What do you think about him abandoning his post, especially considering what happens to Phèdre and her boys by the end of this week’s chapters?

That choice to leave is going to bite. Him. So hard. Oh, Joscelin.

We’ve talked before about these events mirroring those of the first book, but I think here is where I’m really feeling that. It’s going to be like finding Delaunay and Alcuin dead all over again, but this time will be worse because Phèdre’s worst enemy is keeping her captive and we don’t even know yet if Joscelin will work all that out, even if he has been smart enough to stay hidden from Melisande (small but profound relief!). And it’s coming right on the heels of Joscelin deciding to walk away, and I CAN’T DEAL WITH IT.

As for the Yeshuite prophecy/entanglement… As with my observation about Asherat and coincidences, I’m not convinced this is Joscelin’s fate playing out so much as just Joscelin making a series of unwise choices that lead him to cross paths with them. These people are playing on that prophecy, I think, because it fits with their purpose to have a trained Cassiline teaching them how to fight. Then again, perhaps this is happening for a reason – I’m just not sure I believe it’s for the same reason that these Yeshuites believe it. If all of them even really do, and that’s the other thing. I don’t know if I buy that Joscelin really believes this; he is angry and conflicted and wants to do anything other than face his real feelings and what they might mean – but I could certainly believe that at least some of the Yeshuites can see that, and are playing on it – and playing him – in order to get something useful from him.


Phèdre is imprisoned and two-thirds of her boys are confirmed dead, what did you think of this sequence as events. Did you see it coming or were you shocked?

Again, I absolutely did not remember the specifics of Melisande revealing herself, and let’s be real: this was absolutely Melisande springing a trap shut on Phèdre, and this time she most certainly can’t claim that the deaths resulting from it were not her intention, like she did with Delaunay.

It’s worth noting that Melisande arguably underestimated Phèdre once before, when she sold her to Waldemar Selig instead of killing her. It seems like she could have learned from that, but she’s drawing the line in the same place; it’s only the surroundings that are different. Melisande claims she knows better than to risk angering Kushiel by killing one of his Chosen, but I think it’s more than that. Again, Melisande’s ego is a factor here and she wants Phèdre to know she’s been beaten. Note her reaction when Phèdre displayed a willingness to harm herself to retain some form of control against Melisande; this is all about control, about power, and Melisande only thought she had all of it in that situation. Someone hopeful might point out that this could be an indicator of how things will play out on a grander scale as well…













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